Nightly News   |  August 22, 2013

Millions reallocated to battle ongoing fires

There are 51 fires burning in the West, and the government is running low on cash to fight them. With resources spread thin, it presents a big challenge as the fire season continues to grow. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> 51 wildfires now burning out of control. and there's word tonight the federal government is running out of money and resources to fight them. and in california will there are new evacuations near yosemite national park as a huge fire there closes in. nbc's miguel almaguer has made his way near yosemite. miguel, good evening.

>> reporter: lester, good evening. 84 square mile sz what's been lost here because conditions in this forest are so dry the growth potential for this fire is extreme, and it couldn't come at a worse time. near yosemite national park , 1300 firefighters are on their heels, face-to-face with a firestorm. the rim fire raging out of control, tripling in size overnight. with two homes lost so far, 2500 structures are threatened. thousands have fled their homes, and summer camps forced children to leave, too. don matter isn't ready to go. he watches flames close in, as his family of seven anxiously wait.

>> it is what it is. we live where we live because we enjoy it, but there's also risk.

>> reporter: ripping across forest land, smoke and flames are headed east. we're just 15 miles away from yosemite national park . nbc news is embedded with the pike hot shots in the beer creek fire in idaho. today another 16-hour shift. they don't know where they'll be needed next. the boots on the ground are a sign from the national interagency coordination fire center in boise. this is mission control , the morning meeting.

>> they were reporting more than the 29 fires.

>> reporter: with 33,000 fires so far this year, scorching almost as much land as the state of connecticut, the u.s. forest service is quickly running out of cash. after spending almost a billion dollars for fire suppression this year, the agency only has $50 million left, just enough to last a few days. the forest service forced to divert $600 million from areas like recreation to keep crews on the front lines.

>> when one pot runs low, we have to reallocate just like you would with your home budget.

>> reporter: c-130s are ready, but it costs $12,000 an hour to fly these planes. for the moment, they're staying on the tarmac. tonight, money is short, resources spread thin, as fire season continues to grow with the dry months of september and october still ahead. the cost to fight the rim fire here has already topped nearly $3 million. this blaze is only 2% contained. it will burn for days, if not weeks. the good news, yosemite national park is open